If you hate having your photo taken and looking at pictures of yourself don’t worry – you’re without a doubt part of the vast majority. It’s much more common than you might think, even for actors who are more used to expressing themselves in motion rather than frozen in a still image. Trust me, every photographer knows how you feel – there’s a reason why most of us stay behind the camera and not in front of it.
But how do you go about overcoming this natural and very common anxiety? Here are a few simple tips that can really help.
Don’t Fixate On Small Details
Every single person that steps into the studio is beautiful in their own unique and special way. The human face is a source of endless fascination, expression and individuality. And every single person that steps into the studio without exception has a hang up about some aspect of their appearance.
Eyes, nose, teeth, hairline, wrinkles…the list is endless. Everyone has something they are self-conscious about. And I mean EVERYONE. That lack of confidence you feel about your appearance is 100% universal. So relax – and welcome to the human race.
Often these perceived imperfections can start to become overwhelming in our minds and block our confidence but the truth is no-one else fixes on this anywhere near as much as you do. Quite often most people wouldn’t even notice. What really matters is the character and personality coming through from your portrait or headshot. It’s all about celebrating you, just as you are. Everybody else is already taken anyway. So ,stop being self-critical, be yourself and enjoy the moment. And if anyone ever made you feel you’re not good enough somehow, now’s your chance to say YES I AM!
Go With The Flow
A good headshot or portrait photographer knows the importance of allowing a sitter to relax into the shoot and this starts before even picking up the camera. They’ll do their research, reviewing images of you on Instagram and Spotlight for example to understand your career point, casting and appearance, developing initial ideas around how to shoot you at an early stage. They may have a pre-shoot chat with you over Zoom. When you arrive on the day, even if you’re running a little late or feeling a bit flustered, they’ll take time to sit and chat with you over a cuppa, discuss the outcomes you’re looking for from the shoot and plan your wardrobe and set ups with you. Your session should be relaxed, informal and feel like collaboration between two creatives. From that first hello your photographer should be studying your face, the way you move, how you sit, your energy and building a plan of how to shoot you.
It’s also important not to dive straight into ‘we’re taking photos’ mode. I like my sitters to relax and chat while I get my lighting dialled in and forget about being photographed, posing or what their face may be doing. This really helps clients acclimatise to the studio setting and lights. At this point I can also tweak seating, foot-rests etc to ensure they’re completely comfortable.
Simple Building Blocks
Once the shoot starts in earnest it’s all about building blocks – starting with simple instructions and then gradually layering on direction with plenty of positive reinforcement. I also show images on the back of the camera so my sitter can see how things are progressing and tweak anything they might wish to change. I also like to shoot from a range of angles for each lighting set up to understand the best results for you. Often my sitters are quite surprised how quickly they’ve relaxed into the shoot and the kind of results we’re getting even in the early stages, which really helps to build confidence. If I shoot tethered I avoid my sitter having sight of the screen while shooting as I’ve found this to be a huge distraction for clients who can’t help but review every single shot as its taken while steadily becoming more and more self-conscious. It’s much better to stay in the moment and focussed on me which makes getting great results quicker and easier.
During a shoot your photographer should be constantly reviewing each frame and making little micro-adjustments to ensure the best results for each set-up based on what is working best for you, your look and your brief on the day. So don’t focus on end results too early, go with the flow and trust the process.
The Shoot Is Only Half The Story
Often sitters are very worried about small mishaps on the day. A shaving nick, a pimple popping up, a fly away hair that just won’t stay down. But these are all very easily dealt with in post.
Actually, taking a photograph is and always has been only half the story. Essentially we’re just capturing raw data that we can edit later. The only difference is that today the work is less laborious and time-consuming than it was in the age of film processing in the dark room. Take a look back at the work of Golden Era Hollywood greats like George Hurrell and you might be surprised to learn just how much post-processing by hand went into those flawless black and white portraits.
The Best Version Of You
Take a look at my blog ‘How Long Does It Take to Edit Headshots Anyway?’ and you’ll see that I’m in no way an advocate of heavily retouched or ‘airbrushed’ headshots. They need to look authentically and naturally like the person that will appear on a self-tape or walk into an audition. But that’s not to say they can’t look like the best version of you.
So all of those minor little imperfections are fixed in the edit – following the golden rule of ‘If it won’t be there in two weeks, it won’t be in your headshot.’ But don’t be afraid to be a part of that process also. If you have specific editing notes or needs, talk to your photographer and let them know. I use an online booking and project management system called Photo Workflow to manage my contact sheets, which makes it very easy for you to add editing notes to any images you order.
Hopefully these simple tips will help you feel more confident in front of the camera – just remember that you’re the very best person at being you, you’re in good hands so relax and follow the process and please don’t worry about any temporary, minor blemishes. And most of all, have fun!